The government of Ontario has released an overview of the results of three months of public consultations on the design of the province’s impending “Basic Income Pilot”.

The provincial government of Ontario, Canada is currently designing a pilot study of a guaranteed minimum income (a “basic income” in its terminology [note]), which it plans to launch in the spring of 2017. On November 3, 2016, project advisor Hugh Segal released the paper “Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario” to serve as the focus of discussions on the design of the pilot (see the summary in Basic Income News). Concurrent with the publication of the paper, Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services released a call for feedback from the public via public meetings, online surveys, and written submissions.

Public consultations continued through January 31, 2017, and, in the end, 32,870 people responded to the public online survey, 1193 attended the public meetings, and at least 537 individuals and community groups submitted written feedback–according to a newly released summary of the results of the consultations.

The new report, “Basic Income Consultations: What We Heard” (March 2017), provides an overview of feedback received from the public, although no details have yet been provided as to how this feedback will inform or influence the design of the pilot.

One issue addressed in the consultations was which of the potential measurable outcomes were most important to Ontarians. Segal suggested ten in his discussion paper, and consultations revealed “general agreement” that, of these, four were “particularly important” to residents: health, housing, food, and work behavior.

The level of the minimum income was also a topic of discussion–with the widely announced amount of $1320 per month called into question by some. This $1320 per month amount, which Segal recommended in his discussion paper, was based on a calculation of 75% of the Low-Income Measure (LIM). Some participants in public hearings recommended instead that the minimum income be set at 100% of the LIM.

Participants also discussed the selection of sites for the pilot, with widespread agreement that a variety of locations should be chosen, representing urban, rural, and northern areas, but that the government should also strive to focus on areas of greatest need (i.e. highest poverty rates).

Read about other results here.


[note] As is common in Canada, the Ontario government uses the term ‘basic income’ more broadly than does BIEN. The report above, for example, describes a basic income as a “payment from the government to a person or family to ensure they receive a minimum income level” and lays out several methods of implementing such a policy: “giving the same amount of money to everyone” (i.e. the specific approach that organizations like BIEN refer to as a “basic income”, sometimes also called a “demogrant”), “topping up the incomes of people who earn less than a certain amount”, and “setting up a system where people who earn less than a certain amount get a payment from the government, instead of paying taxes” (i.e. a negative income tax).

Often, ‘basic income’ is used to refer specifically to schemes in which all members of a community receive an equal amount of money, paid to individuals, while a term like ‘guaranteed minimum income’ is applied to the broader category of “payment[s] from the government to a person or family to ensure they receive a minimum income level”. Thus, although the Ontario government has titled its project “Basic Income Pilot”, it might be more accurate to describe it as a “minimum income pilot” to avoid confusion with BIEN’s more specific use of ‘basic income’.

Segal himself strongly recommended that the pilot avoid testing a “demogrant” (“universal basic income”) in favor of a negative income tax. However, as the new report reveals, some participants in the consultations suggested the adoption of a demogrant model.

Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Photo (Ottawa, Ontario) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Stuart Williams 

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News. Now with The Ecological Citizen.